Former University of Georgia defensive back Scott Woerner, the cornerstone of the 1980 national championship team defensive unit, has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame according to an announcement Friday by the National Football Foundation (NFF).
Woerner becomes the 13th former Georgia played elected to the Hall of Fame. The Bulldogs also have four former coaches in the Hall of Fame including Woener’s coach at Georgia, Vince Dooley.
Woerner will be officially inducted on Dec. 6, 2016, at the annual NFF awards dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. He was inducted into the UGA Athletic Association Circle of Honor in 2003 and into
the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
“Congratulation to Scott on a richly deserved honor,” said Dooley. “On our undefeated National Championship team of 1980 he was to our defense and kicking game what Herschel Walker was to our offense that year. Scott was one of the most versatile players I ever coached. He almost beat Clemson
singlehandedly that year with a 67-yard TD punt return and a 98-yard interception return that led to the only other touchdown scored that day. His secondary play in the national championship game against Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl was one of the greatest performances I have ever seen.”
Woerner came to Georgia as an accomplished quarterback, but by the time his career had ended, he had become a first team All-America defensive back and the country’s top punt returner.
Born in Baytown, Texas, he spent his high school career as a three-year letterman at quarterback and defensive back at Jonesboro, Ga., High School. He also lettered in track, basketball, and wrestling but came to Georgia in the fall of 1977 as state¹s number one college prospect
He wasted no time in letting the coaches know he had a knack for returning punts and kickoffs. As a freshman, he returned 22 kickoffs for 546 and in the game against Kentucky returned six kickoffs for 190 yards–a single game record that still stands.
Meanwhile, he began working his way up as a defensive back earning a starting job by his sophomore season when he intercepted four passes. He also finished second in the SEC in punt returns with 277 yards and one TD on 22 returns. Four more interceptions came his way as a junior and he again finished second in the SEC in punt returns which primed him for a stellar senior season.
In 1980, he almost singlehandedly led Georgia to victory over Clemson in a hard-fought 20-16 win in Sanford Stadium. Sports Illustrated named his as the nation’s Defensive Player of the Week following his performance which included a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown in the game’s early minutes. He followed later in the first half with a 98-yard interception return to the Clemson two-yard-line which stopped a Tiger scoring threat and also set up a Buck Belue 1-yard run giving the Bulldogs a 14-10 halftime lead.
By season’s end, Woerner had intercepted five passes and made 47 tackles in helping lead Georgia to an undefeated, untied season and the consensus 1980 national championship. In the Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame, Woerner capped his career with a key end zone breakup and an interception to seal the victory.
Woerner still ranks as one of Georgia’s most prolific defensive backs and return specialists. A consensus All-America and All-SEC selection in 1980, Woerner led the nation that season in punt return average at 15.7 yards. Thesame season, Woerner was the only defensive player to be listed in the top 10 in all-purpose yardage among SEC players.
For his career, Woerner recorded 147 tackles and 13 interceptions. He also rolled up a school-record 1,077 punt return yards, averaging 12.2 yards per return and scoring two touchdowns. He still holds the Georgia single season record for most punt return yards (488) and average punt return yards (15.7). He also holds the record for most kickoff return yards in a game with 190 vs. Kentucky in 1977.
Woerner was drafted in the fourth round by the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. He also played with the USFL¹s Philadelphia Stars and was First-Team All-USFL at safety.
Georgia’s previous Hall of Fame member and year inducted:
Players: Bob McWhorter, 1954; Frank Sinkwich, 1954; Charley Trippi, 1959; Vernon “Catfish” Smith, 1979; Bill Hartman, 1984; Fran Tarkenton, 1987; Herschel Walker, 1999; Bill Stanfill, 1998; Terry Hoage, 2000; Kevin Butler, 2001; John Rauch, 2003; Jake Scott, 2011.
Coaches: Glenn “Pop” Warner, 1951; Vince Dooley, 1994; Wally Butts, 1997; Jim Donnan, 2009.